Dan Snyder, Free Speech Champion A decade ago, the Redskins owner was on the other side of a defamation case.

Dan Snyder's legal team, defending a defamation suit against him, 2000.
Illustration by Brooke Hatfield

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder didn’t always think a defamation lawsuit was the appropriate way to respond to criticism in the press.

About 10 years ago, in fact, Snyder was a defendant in a defamation case in federal court in Virginia—which the Redskins owner successfully argued should be thrown out, because the criticism at issue was a matter of opinion.

Shortly after Snyder bought the team in 1999, the Redskins fired longtime groundskeeper John Jenkins Sr.and his son, John “Chip” Jenkins Jr. from their jobs maintaining the practice fields at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va. They were replaced by the crew in charge of the playing surface at FedExField. That November, Sports Illustrated ran a story by Peter King, detailing the ways Snyder had been shaking up the organization—from the players in the locker room to the way the air conditioning was run.

“At Redskins Park, the fields were in bad shape,” Snyder told SI. “There were three guys trying to kill the players with their crappy fields, so I brought in the head of the grounds crew at the stadium to oversee the fieldwork. Shame on me for trying to make the fields perfect.”

The groundskeepers, who said Snyder’s comments would hurt their ability to find work in the future, sued him for defamation in late 2000, seeking a retraction and compensation for damages.


In motions and memos Snyder’s legal team filed in response, which Washington City Paper obtained from court archives, the Redskins owner proved himself to be a passionate defender of free speech and a robust press.

“Snyder’s comments were made for circulation to a general public audience in the nation’s leading sportsweekly,” a brief supporting Snyder’s motion to dismiss the case reads. “The whole panoply of First Amendment protections clearly apply.... Plaintiffs frame this case as the hard-working loyal groundskeepers against the mean new owner worthy of his moniker ‘Boy Plunder’ in the Sports Illustrated article. But anger over their termination or the fortunes of their beloved team is no substitute for the requisite elements of a libel claim. Those elements prevent riding roughshod over the free speech rights of, yes, even football team owners to speak their minds.”

Thanks to the First Amendment, Snyder’s legal team argued a decade ago, you can’t win a court case against someone for telling the truth. “The Constitution provides a sanctuary for truth,” Snyder’s lawyers wrote, quoting a court ruling. Snyder’s side also said it’s entirely fair to use hyperbole or exaggerated language to criticize someone. “While certainly unpleasant to have such views... aired in a national publication, such criticism hardly impugns their integrity or goes beyond those negative performance evaluations which courts have routinely concluded do not constitute defamation, as a matter of law,” reads a memo supporting the motion to dismiss.

Snyder’s team told the court no one could possibly have thought he literally meant the Jenkins were trying to kill the players. “The obvious exaggeration that the groundskeepers are ‘trying to kill the players with their crappy fields,’ even plaintiffs must concede, can not be understood in its literal, factual sense of an accusation of attempted murder,” Snyder’s lawyers wrote. Underscoring that point, they also wrote: “A reasonable reader could not understand defendant’s remarks to accuse plaintiffs of any wrongdoing which would rise to the level of a defamatory harm to reputation.”

Lawyers for Snyder also argued that the Jenkins—who wanted him to retract his comments—couldn’t be allowed to win. “Injunctions requiring publication of a retraction are unconstitutional as well as impermissible since there is an adequate remedy at law,” they wrote in a footnote.

U.S. District JudgeJames C. Cacheris agreed with Syder’s arguments, dismissing the suit in February 2001, as Snyder requested. The Jenkinses filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, in March 2001, but dropped the case that July.

Last week, of course, Snyder sued the investment partnership that owns City Paper’s parent company, alleging that our November cover story defamed him.

Reached at his home, John Jenkins tells City Paper he doesn’t want to talk about anything having to do with Snyder. Chip Jenkins, in a message, says the same thing.

Reply Brief In Support of Motion to Dismiss Jenkins v. Snyder, Filed by Dan Snyder's Lawyers in 2000 Lawsuit Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss Jenkins v. Snyder, Filed by Dan Snyder's Lawyers in 2000 ...

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Our Readers Say

What a surprise, the short little napoleon-eque ahole speaks out of both sides of his weaselly mouth.
That Snyder bullied CP by threatening to bankrupt it with a frivolous lawsuit (and then that he actually filed that frivolous case in New York) is pathetic.

The fact that he's not yet dismissed the case after virtually uniform condemnation by fans and sports writers is truly dumbfounding. What a jerk.
Just for the Record:

The Following is a short list of current and past lawsuits involving Dan Snyder:
Dan Snyder against City Paper
The Redskins against Ticket Holders (Chief Zee)
Red Zone Capital against Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft
Dick Clark Productions being sued by HFPA's Golden Globes
Six Flags being pillaged to buy Dick Clark productions, Bond Holders sued
Snyder Communications Slamming

Is there a pattern of behavior here.....hmmmmm?
Hm-m-m... sounds like Jenkins & Son did get a settlement, ultimately. And, no doubt part of that was "no comment" in perpetuity on Snyder.
oh beautiful irony! dan snyder wrongfully accused these two guys of literally trying to kill redskins players with bad turf in the same way dave mckenna wrongfully accused him of personally using literal agent orange on those trees. what a total goddamn loser dan snyder is. what lawyer could possibly possibly allow that point into the suit? and who would possibly think it necessary to explicitly tell a FIRM WHOSE JOB IT IS TO MEASURE ASSETS' WORTH in a goddamn threat to sue that they ought to evaluate if the lawsuit is going to cost more than the CP is worth? saying that is so so stupid. meaning it is what we expect from dan snyder, but saying it is so so stupid. just like filing a case where you're on record in a court of law doing the exact same thing you're accusing someone else of doing to you.

+1 on reading between the lines. the jenkinseses maybe just maybe got a settlement.
Dan has made a complete joke out of this great franchise, and he has become the biggest imbecile in the sports world. He seriously should consider getting professional help. Once again his actions are so egregiously stupid that he risks a large segment of the fan base boycotting the team. Several people have told me they are done with the Redskins.

Please send Danny Boy to California to be with TomKat and start a new franchise! Give us back our team!!
Mr. Snyder (Everybody deserves respect), is not respecting me as a loyal Redskins fan. I feel totally, totally embarrassed by our owners actions. This gentleman is kicking himself in the rear. I wish he were not the owner of our great Washington Redskins. He is going to regret his actions in the latter days of his life. What a shame.
Snyder failed in his attempt to control the flow of information by buying media outlets. Now he wants to suppress free speech. He's a despicable little prick. Has that outfit thought through ramifications if they achieve the outcome they seem to be after? Does that crappy little fart really want to be known ever after as the guy who put the City Paper out of business? Will he ever get hiis head out of his ass?
Canceling my season tickets!
Oh, this is TOO EASY: "“At Redskins Park, the owner was in bad shape,” I told SI. “There was this one little demoonic, Napoleonic guy trying to kill the franchise with his crappy business practice, so I brought in the head of the KODS (Kick Out Dan Snyder) club to the stadium to oversee the little man's removal. Shame on me for trying to make the franchise perfect.”"
This exact quote can be used by the CityPaper's legal team and save a bundle in lawyer's fees!

"Snyder’s side also said it’s entirely fair to use hyperbole or exaggerated language to criticize someone. “While certainly unpleasant to have such views... aired in a national publication, such criticism hardly impugns their integrity or goes beyond those negative performance evaluations which courts have routinely concluded do not constitute defamation, as a matter of law,” reads a memo supporting the motion to dismiss." Brilliant! Can't Wait!
I Love Dan Snyder! Thank thank thank you! City Paper Owners/Writers/Editors have hit the proverbial goldmine. Bet they were cracking open Moet when they got those legal papers. Keep up the good work Dan and CP. PR, something juicy to write about, ad sales should be going strong soon. etc. etc. Nothing like a good story of this proportion to give a nice kick in the circulation and readership. If you didn't know about CP in the past...where ya all been? You do now. Thank you Dan...you just increased demand for CP in print and net. and will contribute to make them even better and "profitable"...<<< You can relate to that Dan.. now can't ya???
up to skins fans to stop watching/supporting this team(snyder)!
as a life long steeler fan if the rooneys conducted themselves like snyder I would stop supporting them!
Let me see if I have this straight. If I knowingly publish to third persons an erroneous factual assertion against Dan Snyder to his detriment, then I would be liable for libel. But if I say, "In my opinion, the Belt Buckle Kid is a putrescent gas bag," I'm OK?
Hey Snyder! Suck it!
Did anyone hear his interview during superbowl week. It is not his fault, it was his lawyers that brought the suit. He also kept saying how they made fun of his wife and talking about how evil it was to do that to a someone fighting breast cancer. I read the story twice and she is hardly mentioned.
I have to be honest if nothing else this lawsuit has benefited city paper. I never heard of you guys (sorry I hadn't - my head is down in shame) Now I am coming online and checking out your stories almost daily. Tell your attorneys great job! I wonder how Snyder's team of attorneys will spin what they previously used to defend a suit against him. Danny boy do you read the comments we think you are a bigger joke than this paper or any other media outlet ever could

Signed Life long skins fan who is tired of Dan Snyder making everyone laugh at my team.
I am so sick of the way he has trashed a once proud Team. A young man on the West Coast called me a faggot on facebook for being a Redskin Fan. I am 57 and bleed Burgundy and Gold, I have seen die hard friends say what is there to look forward to as long as $ynder is the owner and now they buy Caps jerseys and hats and go to Caps games. Ted Leonsis is an excellent owner ! I wish he could own the Redskins !
I drove from Maryland to Minnesota in Jan. 1992 for Super Bowl 26 to see the Redskins and my kids were 6 and 10 and it getting hard for them to watch the Skins now that $ynder has turned them into an embarrassment.
You can't make this stuff up.
I hears things are so bad for Snyder right now his PR team has suggested he improve his image in small increments. So next week he's going to change his last name to Madoff.
The City Paper should issue a retraction of the devil picture, as it is insulting to devils who can actually get things done.

The City Paper should replace the devil picture with Snyder's face drawn on a douche bag. It is a far more accurate depiction as Snyder is, in fact, a total & complete douche bag. Talk about a moniker with some unused mileage, to wit:

Dan The Douche Bag Snyder
Super Douche Snyder
DANdy Douche
or perhaps rename the Douche Bag, the Dan Bag

If you go to a Redskins game, does the ticket bar you from chanting "Douche Bag Dan"? If so, could they eject 90,000 fans chanting it?

I aim to find out.
Thank you CP! I would have missed it. Of course those that are rich only travel on one-way streets. By the way for those that don’t know the CP never asked for $!!! It was freely offered & they only started the fund because Danny boy haters insisted on it. CP has stated that after they pay their deductible, the balance will go to charity. Hopefully it will go to breast cancer – an even more direct slap in the face for Danny boy. P.S. If you really hate Danny boy, write him and tell him so. His mailing address is 11900 River Rd., Potomac, MD 20854. You can find his house on the internet; it’s the one w/ the heli-pad and chopped down trees so that he can get a better view of the river.
I finally figured it out. Dan has a little schmeckle which can't keep his wife interested. He's a nerdy little douche-bag who found himself a great looking gold digger. If you want to keep a gold digger you need to use your money to defend her. else, the fact that he's ugly and not well endowed would kill the marriage.
February 14, 2011: Dan Snyder will be out shortly; departure date is end of February. I own the Washington Redskins and always have. Add Delora Barentine vs. Daniel Snyder to your list of stupid lawsuits the thief Daniel and his wife Tanya have been involved in. Remember that approximately $1.4 million dollar birthday party he gave his wife? Stolen from the Washington Redskins by him and his wife Tanya plus numerous other felonies. Get ready Redskins fan(s). I am taking it over and we are going to make you a proud Redskin fan!
February 14, 2011: P. S. to my above comments. I am also replacing all of his administrative "Yes sir" employees. I did not approve the employment of one of those people and they are all going to depart. If need arises, I will litigate it in the courts. That is where we have been with the thief Daniel Snyder and his golddigging wife trying to steal. He has always been to lazy to get a college degree and work for an honest living. I personally approved the hiring of Coach Mike and his son Kyle in 2009 approved by an impartial and honest Washington D.C. federal judge. I think if given free reign to hire the coaching staff and players Coach Mike can take us to great height.
Inspired by events in the Middle East, Redskins fans are taking to the streets demanding Dan Snyder relinquish ownership of the team: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag1Ugt-E3Eg
good post. thanks
great post, i like it very much. welcome to vist my blog:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag1Ugt-E3Eg Redskins fans are taking to the streets demanding Dan Snyder relinquish ownership of the team
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag1Ugt-E3Eg#http://www.snapbackscaps.co.uk good snapback caps . thanks

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